It can feel very freeing to not have to follow a strict schedule, to have your entire day just open to the infinite possibilities. As most of us are always busy and stressed, rushing from one activity to the next, having the calendar cleared out is an opportunity that many of us would take without any hesitation. It seems so appealing to be able to see all the time spread out before you with no set way to spend it. Able to use the time any way that you please, you could be incredibly productive and get everything you’ve been putting off done or you could just do absolutely nothing. In a situation such as this, the choice is yours.
Yet, as exciting as the unlimited possibilities may be, lacking any structure to your days can be incredibly harmful to your mental health. Most people need order, even if we feel we’d be better off without it. If you find yourself facing a lot of unstructured time, it may be time to build a new routine. Implementing a schedule of some sort can be highly beneficial to the state of your mental health.
How Structure Helps with Different Mental Health Conditions
A little structure in our lives can help anyone feel better. Without it, we can lose motivation and find ourselves using all the extra time in ways that only leave us feeling unproductive and unfulfilled. Having a structured plan for the day, on the other hand, can allow us to get excited for certain tasks that will come later in the day and leave us with a sense of accomplishment as we check off on different goals that a schedule allows us to work towards.
The benefits of a routine are true even more so for those that struggle with more complicated mental health situations. A variety of mood disorders and other mental illnesses can be alleviated by the simple implementation of structure into one’s days. Those with depression or anxiety, in particular, may want to consider routine in order to improve their mental health situation.
Getting into a routine can actually be one of the most important things for someone with a condition like major depressive disorder. Having something set up that offers you purpose can help someone with depression to get out of bed and start to shake off some of their depressive symptoms. In the case of those with bipolar depression, routine can also help them find some stability.
Of course, creating this structure in your life may not be easy when dealing with depression, but it’s something that can be approached step by step. Starting with a few small goals to incorporate into a routine can do a lot of good.
It’s tempting to think that the highly structured life is the one that would cause more anxiety. It’s true that overscheduling ourselves can make us stressed, but those with anxiety can actually find more calm in a life with set routines. Creating to-do lists and schedules can get all the things that just must be done out of the racing mind and onto paper, where it will find you with less anxiety over the feeling that something may have been forgotten.
How to Create a Daily Routine
A routine can calm any mind that isn’t sure what to do with all the time before it. Achieving all the mental health benefits of structured days only requires taking a bit of time to actually create the routine. It doesn’t have to be difficult to get started, and the schedule you make does not have to be complicated.
Simply start by writing down all the daily tasks that are important to note. Include everything that you can think of, from meals and routine hygiene to progress on long-term goals. Once you have it all down, you can prioritize, organize, and assign set times of the day to certain items.
Mornings don’t have to be a stressful time of getting ready and rushing into the day, but they are also not better spent scrolling social media in bed. Even if you have nothing really planned for the day, set an alarm clock and try to get out of the bed within a decent time frame after that alarm wakes you up. Then, regardless of whether you are going out or will merely be moving to your living room, one of the most important things to do with your mornings is get dressed.
Just the simple act of changing into fresh clothes can set us up for a successful and mentally healthy day. By getting dressed in the morning, you can be more productive and motivated as well as in a better mood for the rest of the day. So, as tempting as allowing yourself to be lazy may be, you should make sure to get up and get going with a morning routine every single day.
Filling Your Days with Structured Time
You may have several tasks that you absolutely have to get done everyday or you may have complete freedom with how you spend your time. Either way, getting those items down on your plan can help keep you productive and feeling accomplished. Whatever you want to get done, incorporate it into your new routine. Some things you may want to include may be household chores such as cleaning and organizing, setting and tackling some goals, and enjoying a satisfying hobby like gardening, writing, or baking. Structure your time, but also spend it in ways that you enjoy.
Ending with Your Evenings
The end of the day is the time to really calm your mind and relax. Of course, without a set routine, it can become all too easy to continue working or binging Netflix late into the nighttime hours. To remind yourself to start wrapping up the day, set a “bedtime alarm,” similar to the one that wakes you in the morning, which will instead send you to bed.
Ahead of getting under the covers, you may want to incorporate some relaxation activities into an evening routine. This is the time to take a relaxing bath, spend some time with a good book, or practice meditation. All of this can help you to get to sleep at a regular time and have better sleep, which is essential for positive mental health.
Tackle Tasks at Times That Work For You
While scheduling everything into time slots can certainly provide quite a lot of structure to your life, you might not want to get too strict with yourself. Flexibility can be important sometimes too, especially when life decides to get in the way. In implementing a routine for the first time, just focus on planning your day in a way that works best for you.
You might prefer to sleep in and take on more creative endeavors in the later hours of the day or you may not be able to thrive without a schedule that has you waking with the sun. Different routines work better for different people. Whatever works best for you is what you should go with.
Putting Mental Health First Any Time
Above everything else, the goal when designing a routine for yourself should be putting your mental health first. If you’re particularly struggling with a mental health situation, it may take more than just adding structure into your days. Whenever you need us, the ADHD Wellness Center is always here to provide the support and resources you need for anything related to mental health. With a therapist, you can determine what you really need for your mental health, whether that’s a routine or something else.